Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mono Inn Restaurant

The Mono Inn in Lee Vining, California was built in 1922 and owned by Wally and Venita McPherson. In 1996, the inn was bought by Ansel Adams family and run by Sarah Adams for 10 years. Though still owned by the Adams family, the building is currently leased to Lonna and Debbie Hergert and they now run the restaurant.

I can remember the excellent food and the freshly baked bread they served. Great food while you looked out the window and admire the beautiful Mono Lake that starts out blue and as the sun sets, you see blue reflection of the sky on the lake which later turns into shades of pink.

I was very excited to go back and introduce my friend to this experience. It has been at least 15 years since I have been there. We were the first to arrive and had our pick of the table. We positioned ourselves by the window. We looked at the menu and questioned our server if we could split the bowl of  Butternut Squash Soup. She politely said no. I thought that maybe there was cheese on top so it might be difficult to split. She informed us that she would bring 2 spoons. That did not work out too well because the soup was set between the two of us so almost every time the spoon made it's way to our mouths, it left a trail of drip, drip, drip which made us look like sloppy eaters. I couldn't see the big deal why they could not furnish another small cup. While we ate our delicious soup, we thought it would go well with bread which we did not get. I waited for our server who got busy with the other table. I ended up going to the bar and asking her if we could have some bread. Her response was, "Oh, do you want bread?", Yes please, I replied. A few minutes later, a basket arrived. Sandi started laughing when she peeked in the basket. She couldn't wait for my reaction. I looked and saw 4 thin slices of bread. It's almost as if they only had 1 baguette and had to make sure they had enough to feed everyone. BTW, we noticed the other tables didn't get the bread basket.

We decided to split two entrees:  the Bison Short Rib; braised with red wine demi glace until it falls off the bone, served with truffle gratin and fresh seasonal vegetables. The other entree was the Filet Mignon; bacon wrapped with bordelaise sauce and caramelized shallots, served with herb roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables.

The food arrived and it looked promising. Unfortunately, it broke it's promise. The Filet was supposed to be cooked medium and it came rare. The Bison which was supposed to be falling off the bone did not fall off. It hung on the bone for dear life. It was chewy. The flavor and sauce was very good. When our server came to ask how everything was, we told her what we thought and she just apologized.  After about 10 minutes, she returned and asked us again how everything was. Nothing has changed in the last 10 minutes so I told her again we were not very happy. In fact, I suggested she tell the chef what we thought; she gave us a puzzled look and apologized again. We did not finish our meal so we had lots of room for dessert but decided to skip it. We didn't want to take any chances and be further disappointed.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.  We were really sorry we did not like the food nor the service. Mono Inn is still riding on the old reputation of being a great restaurant. I understand that sometimes the meat may not be tender, or something may not be cooked right and these are all fixable problems. I think the chef could have come out to apologize and offer to bring something else or at the very least, the manager if there was one, could have come up and offer a discount like they do in any fine dining restaurant especially if they want you to come back.

If you want to see Mono Lake, you can drive to the museum in Lee Vining and see the vast lake with a very nice exhibit. If you want good old fashion delicious food and great service, head on to the old Carson Peak Inn in June Lake. The croutons alone will be worth your visit.

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